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18 November 2009

On Tour With Puscifer
Salt Lake City, Capitol Theatre

Review by Scott Iwasaki at Deseret News

Puscifer blows minds at psychedelic showBy Scott Iwasaki

What started as a camping trip turned into a musically psychedelic, technological mind trip at the Capitol Theatre Wednesday night.

Puscifer, led by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, kicked off the show in a tent pitched on the stage. After clearing things up with his manager (via mobile phone and MacBook Pro), he made his band — featuring guitarist Johnny Polonski and guest percussionist Tim Alexander (of Primus) play an 1½-hour set that included all the songs from the band's debut CD "V Is for. ..."

The stage was decked out with a barbecue grill, lawn chairs, bottles of wine, two HD TV monitors and a large video screen hung over the stage,

Keenan delivered his trademark sublimely frantic vocals on powerful arrangements of "Momma Sed," "Indigo Children" and "Polar Bear."

When not needed, the band members casually put down their instruments, sat in lawn chairs and sipped the wine, and when they prepped themselves to join the playing, they kept the casual atmosphere alive and nonchalantly stepped to their stations and began to play.

"Dozo," "The Undertaker," "Queen B" and "The Mission" were performed with unnatural precision that appeared both brilliant and spooky.

And the audience ate it all up and screamed for more.

Alexander, all dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood, added his powerful syncopation to the throng while Polonski pushed and pulled dynamic sounds and screams from his guitar.

Even opening comedian Neil Hamburger stepped onto the stage and helped himself to a drink before stopping the show during the holy-roller rant of "Sour Grapes" to deliver one of his off-color jokes.

The darkness of "Trekka," and the sinister toy piano intro to "Drunk With Power" were other shades of mystique and nuance that peppered the set.

Still, music and sets weren't the only things the show offered.

Between every few songs, the big screen lit up with comedy video skits that pondered what the band's name, which happened to be the name of the band's demon-girl mascot, really meant.

Puscifer took the stage after a hit-and-miss comedy act performed by Hamburger.

Some audience members heckled Hamburger, who heckled back. Others laughed at every button-pushing joke and off-color riddle.

Britney Spears, Aerosmith, Michael Jackson and Down syndrome children were caught in Hamburger's cross hairs.

Review by David Burger at The Salt Lake Tribune
Note this reviewer's lack of research about the female singer!

Concert review: Tool frontman shows that Puscifer has wings
Rock band pushes the envelope with unique show.

What is a Puscifer?

The predominantly young audience entering the Capitol Theatre on Wednesday didn't know quite to expect from Puscifer, the side project of Maynard James Keenan, the mysterious frontman of multi-platinum metal band Tool.

What they saw was a unique theatrical experience that befuddled as much as entertained the audience, as humor and hard rock battled for the spotlight in what ended up to be a satisfying musical adventure that challenged our preconceptions of what to expect from a rock show.

The opening act provided a glimpse of the off-kilter theme of the evening. Gregg Turkington played stand-up comedian Neil Hamburger, a bespectacled, tuxedoed older man with a hideous comb-over and a tendency to drink heavily and berate the audience, His 30-minute set was punctuated by frequent clearing of his throat of phlegm, and his foul-mouthed one-liners were funny in that most of them were not funny. (Sample: Why don't rapists eat at T.G.I. Friday's? It's hard to rape with a stomach-ache.) Hamburger's skewering of Michael Jackson, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna and other celebritieswere tasteless, offensive, and hilarious.

Hamburger was followed by the main act, Puscifer. The headlining set opened curiously. Keenan, with his shaven head and sunglasses, was inside a tent in the middle of the stage, talking on the phone to someone who claimed they were needed to perform in Utah. Keenan kept on responding that he had promised to give the band a night off by camping in Colorado. When the person on the other end of the phone told Keenan how much money they were promised in Salt Lake City,

Keenan came out of the tent as the rest of the band emerged from sleeping bags all over the stage.

What was most surprising was the music was much more different than the amateurish debut album by Puscifer titled "V For Vagina," a collection of uninspired, embarrassing avant-garde pop tunes.

Wednesday night, the seven-piece band, including actress and singer Milla Jovovich, played hard rock that was much more driven by the rhythm section than guitars, and the sound inside the intimate theater was full-throttled and glorious. Guitarist Jonny Polonsky provided texture and atmosphere to the pulsating, relentless percussion that was fiery and explosive.

For the rest of the evening, the stage was situated like a campsite, with a fired-up Weber Grill providing light and unbagged camp chairs providing the seating for the band, who liberally drank wine frm

Keenan's Arizona vineyard. Intriguing was the way Keenan and Jovovich stood at the rear of the stage, with poles obscuring their bodies and only small black-and-white TV screens showing them singing. Behind them, ominous and garish lights filled a huge screen, giving the appearance of a band played in the midst of the darkness on the edge of town.

Every so often, the tuneful dirges were interrupted by videos of people trying to decipher "what a Puscifer was," with deluded showbiz agents trying to convince Keenan that it should be a cooking show hosted by Hitler, or a Ted Nugent-helmed "Survivor" show, or something else inane. In another spot in the show, former Primus drummer Tim Alexander played percussion in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit, keeping the outdoorsy --- and weird -- vibe intact.

It was a bizarre but fascinating night, with the show always walking the tightrope between art and pretentiousness. Somehow, the band pulled it off, primarily by virtue of the great music being played with a theatrical style with flair and thematic unity.

What is a Puscifer?

The audience who saw it Wednesday now know what it is.